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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Deadfront Blockage - Tesla Mobile Connector Will Not Plug In

Something is stuck in the left side of this NACS connector  

We purchased a Model Y a few months ago. Tesla vehicles no longer come with a Mobile Charging Connector, which is essential equipment to keep in the frunk. Luckily, we had the mobile connector that came with our 2016 Model X. As you can see in the image above, it's a little beat up, but it works fine and I have a bunch of adapters for it, so I'd rather not replace it. 

Well, things didn't work out as expected. 

When we tried to use the 2016 connector with our 2023 Model Y. It would only insert part way. It didn't insert far enough for the locking mechanism to engage. You could hear the lock clicking against the connector over and over. Something was wrong and an error message popped up to confirm this.

Error message when trying to use a 
deadfront blocked charging connector
(our Model Y is named "Sometimes" - get it?)

At first, I thought the old connector was incompatible with newer vehicles. That was not the case. The 2016 mobile connector (aka Universal Mobile Connector) works with all of Tesla's 2012+ (post-original Roadster) vehicles, so it should work fine with our new Model Y. The problem was that there was something lodged down in the connector.

Both sides of the connector looked identical, so I assumed they were fine. They were not. There was something lodged in each side. What was in there? After some investigation, I discovered they were called "deadfronts". Deadfronts are used to insulate the connectors and prevent you from accidentally touching the conductive portion of the receptacle (sounds like a good idea). 

The only problem is that deadfronts are intended to be on the vehicle receptacle rather than the charging connector. So they popped off from the vehicle and were now stuck in the connector. This was a common problem until 2019 when the receptacle was redesigned. These might have popped off years ago, but it was not a problem when I used this mobile connector on the Model X since the deadfront came from that vehicle. When the connector was plugged in, they simply filled the same gap they had vacated.  

So now to the task of removing them. They were challenging to get out. Making sure it was unplugged, I tapped the connector, pounding it on the heel of my hand with no luck. The deadfront would slide forward some, but it would not fall out. I tried tweezers and a small screwdriver with no luck. Getting desperate, I tried a drill with a small drill bit. I used a slow drill so I didn't pierce the deadfront and drill into the connector itself. 

This method worked! I was able to remove both of them. I inspected the connector and nothing appeared damaged.

Deadfront Removal Method

Two removed deadfronts

It might have been smarter to go to the Tesla service center and let them deal with this, but I wanted to fix it myself. And if things did go wrong, this connector is old and we could replace it with a new one.

Now to test it. With these removed, the connector seated properly, and charging worked fine!